Let us begin by just feeling friendly towards our mind and body. Friendly and gentle towards our mind, friendly and gentle towards our body.
Can you see yourself as your best friend? And can you really feel it, feel it in every part of your body, your whole being?
And being your best friend, you have complete confidence and trust in yourself.
Now let us just be mindful, just be aware, just be alert and awake to what is happening in our mind and body from moment to moment.
Please realise that what we are doing is not to develop concentration but just learning to be aware, learning to be conscious, learning to be alert. So please don’t try to achieve anything. Whatever is happening in your mind and body, just know what is happening.
If you are aware you will know that you are sitting completely still and you will feel the stillness around you.
Now we will use our awareness to become aware of our breath. Please allow your body to breathe naturally and just be aware of the sensations, the movements you experience in the body, in your breathing.
You know when the body is inhaling. You know when the body is exhaling.
Feel friendly towards your thoughts and just return to your breath.
Experience the present moment with the help of your friend, the breath.
When the breath is long you know that the breath is long. When it is short you know that it is short. When it is deep you know it is deep. When it is not deep you know that it is not deep.
Feeling the stillness in the room, you inhale. Feeling the stillness in the room, you exhale.
If there are unpleasant sensations in the body, just learn to feel friendly and gentle towards them. Don’t see them as disturbances or distractions.
If there are unpleasant sensations in the body, how far can you make friends with them without disliking them?
If you are experiencing any unpleasant emotions, how far can you feel friendly towards them, not dislike them, not want them to go away?
If you have thoughts that you don’t like, how far can you feel friendly towards them and just allow them?
If you are not resisting any of these things, there is no suffering.
Whether you are sitting, standing, walking, eating, doing yoga, whatever you are doing, even going to the toilet, what you do in the toilet, please make an effort just to know, just to be conscious, just to be present, to what is happening in your mind and body from moment to moment.
It is also important to learn to use awareness with friendliness, with gentleness. There is a very interesting Mahayana text in this connection where watching yourself, observing yourself, is compared to being a mother. So like a mother just watching, just observing, just noticing her child in whatever the child is doing, in the same way, if you can watch, if you can observe, if you can find out what is happening in your mind and body with awareness and friendliness, this is extremely important.
Please get these two words very clear: reacting and responding. If we are reacting emotionally we can learn from that. What made me become so sad? What made me become so depressed? What made me so insecure? Because you might have had the thought: maybe my own child could be like this sometime. So we can create a huge story from a simple incident that you have seen on the road. If that happens, you can reflect on it: Why am I reacting? So that becomes an object of meditation.
And maybe in another situation you might be able to respond. Respond very clearly, very calmly, with a still mind, doing what has to be done. So you see the difference very clearly: Ah, see what happens when I react and see what happens when I respond. Just see the difference.
And the same principle applies to what is happening internally. When we are meditating, someone who is habitually reactive can be reactive to what is happening in meditation also. To take an example, supposing your knees are in pain. You can say my knees are in pain, who knows, my knees might break, I know some meditators who have broken their knees – and you can create a huge story from the pain in the knees. And from the pain in the knees you can have anxiety, you can have fear, you can have insecurity, you can have all these unpleasant emotions. So responding would be just observing the pain and learning to make friends with it, and if it becomes unbearable you change the posture.
If one wants to develop Karuna, then suppose that when you are sitting there is physical pain, there is suffering in yourself. So rather than continue to suffer as a result of that physical or mental pain, you try to do something about it, you learn to be friendly in relation to it, you learn to let go of it. This would be practising Karuna in relation to meditation.
And when you do that you can immediately experience sympathetic joy and feel happy: very nice, joy instead of suffering; I tried to do something about it and now there is a change taking place. So you can experience joy about the pain, happiness about it. Then you can experience the last quality, realising maybe I should not hold on to this joy, I should have a non-reactive mind to the joy. So you see how in one particular situation, a simple situation, one can develop Metta, Karuna, Mudita, and Uppekha, all four qualities.
The Second NobleTruth is difficult because we have to find out how we are creating our own suffering by our likes and our dislikes, by the demands that we are making. I would suggest that this is a very important realisation for us to have because if we can see that we are creating our own suffering, if you have the realisation that only you can free yourself from the suffering that you create yourself.
The First NobleTruth is the fact of suffering. And there is no human being who is not familiar with the First NobleTruth. Everyone, including myself, has experienced the First NobleTruth. Maybe some of you are experiencing it even now.
An interesting question arises: Why is suffering a Noble Truth? What is noble in suffering? It is an interesting, useful question to reflect upon. I suggest that it is noble because if from the suffering you can go on to the Second NobleTruth, then you can find a way out of suffering. So in everyday life when we are suffering, if you can tell yourself: I’m experiencing the First Noble Truth, that is an interesting way of relating to suffering. What happens to most people is that they just stick only in the First NobleTruth, only get to know suffering.
If you can be observant, if you can be aware in everyday life, you can catch yourself: seeing how in certain situations we like certain things, we want them to continue, we like to give them plusses; and in other situations we don’t like them, we want to get rid of them. Just as when doing formal meditation so in everyday life, when you like something, when you identify yourself with something, see for yourself what happens to you, what it does to you.
Then you will realise – and it is a very important discovery that you’ll make – that we can’t always be demanding how things should be. What we are doing is making demands of ourselves, how we should behave, how we must behave; making demands of others, how they should behave, how they must behave; and also demanding from life, how life should be, how life must be according to our own expectations. Making demands is one thing, but reality is another thing. This is a simple way of seeing how we create our own suffering. So here again, it is very important in everyday life just to see how we create our own suffering with the demands we are making.